... then we take Berlin

"They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin"

Leonard Cohen

I have wanted to go to Berlin since I was a child. I am not sure if it was my dad's vast knowledge of German history or the allure of Marlene Dietrich - but I always felt I just needed to see Berlin.  I actually booked flights twice in 2008 -  but then the world fell apart (if you don't know what this means google recession!)

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So when Ryanair announced direct flights to Berlin (Schonefeld)  from my local airport - Kerry, I decided in that very moment - 2018 was the year I would finally get to visit Berlin! On a wet Wednesday evening in December, I booked two return flights from Kerry to Berlin for just under €76 euro (I amended the booking before travelling to include Priority Boarding and seat selection - so the total for the two of us was €118.56). My friend Anne (Bibliophile, Singlephile, oenophiliac , woman of some substance) booked our accommodation - the magnificent Das Stru (http://www.das-stue.com) a luxury boutique styled hotel in the Embassy belt which from the minute we arrived at 10pm to the hurried moments we departed at 5.48am - was flawless perfection and definitely worth blowing the budget a little !

The following is a brief overview of my long waited, much anticipated two days in Berlin. It's written from the perspective of me, a female nearly half a century on planet Earth, who loves life, fashion, wine and history. As I only had two days and three nights - the goal was to do as much as possible and sleep when I got home ! 

 Anne (who is a magnet to artists and performers) meets Grammy award winner Daddy Hemingway

Anne (who is a magnet to artists and performers) meets Grammy award winner Daddy Hemingway

 

We flew out on a Thursday evening from Kerry at 5pm. As I live only 15 minutes from the Airport, I went to work that morning  - so arrived at the Airport at 3.30pm. It only takes minutes to go through security and there is ample facilities airside for a drink and snacks. The flight was boarded really quickly (and this was the week the new luggage regulation came into effect), and the actual flying time to Berlin was less than 2.5 hours. When we arrived, it took less than 20 minutes to exit the plane and clear security and we then walked approx 5 minutes to the Taxi rank and the fare to our hotel was €50 (including tip). As it was late in the evening, the trip took approximately 30 minutes, but this will depend on where you are going to in the City and the time of day. 

Das Stue (as described on their website)
"THINK OF CARY GRANT, BAR CULTURE, REAL GENTLEMEN & LADIES AND CULTIVATED CONVERSATIONS. DAS STUE IS A CELEBRATION OF SOCIALIZING".

  The lobby of Das Stue hotel in Berlin. Everything about this hotel was flawless. The food was superb, the staff friendly and so helpful and the interiors impeccable with the love and appreciation for art of the owners constantly visible throughout the whole property. 

The lobby of Das Stue hotel in Berlin. Everything about this hotel was flawless. The food was superb, the staff friendly and so helpful and the interiors impeccable with the love and appreciation for art of the owners constantly visible throughout the whole property. 

 

We arrived at the hotel at approx 10pm and were starving! So after a speedy and friendly check-in and show around we ventured to the bar for light bites and drinks. Breakfast was not part of our rate, but the hotel was happy to negotiate a reduced rate  of €25 if we booked the night in advance. The breakfast, served daily until 11.30am, was simply superb with healthy and 'go on you are on holidays' options. Hello pancakes. . . . plus they had a Barista to make flat whites, lattes etc - instead of those awful push button machines. 

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Berlin is a big city - and obviously impossible to see in 2 days. So our plan was to have no plan - and this worked perfectly. We visited all the key sites, the The Brandenburg Gate, Rebuilt Reichstag, Holocaust memorial and selected the Altes Museum in the Museum Belt (most famous as the home to Nefertiti, one of the most famous women of the ancient world, and an icon of feminine beauty). If you love Egyptian history - this is for you. However there are 4 other major museums all beside each other to choose from - so it's best to decide in advance what you want to see and just pick one. 

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We also visited Checkpoint Charlie and looked at the remains of the Berlin Wall (both which I found personally all rather bizarre). If you are in the area, and don't want to eat in a fast food joint or tourist trap, then take a 5 minute stroll and the first right as you head west and you will find a really excellent French bistro, Entrecôte. (I know I should have made the effort to eat more authentically & local - but steak, fries and bordeaux was just too tempting) 

 Yours truly at Checkpoint Charlie !

Yours truly at Checkpoint Charlie !

 

But of course, what is the point of a day - without the night - and Berlin is all about nightlife. If you love to dress up - do - and if you prefer to stay casual - do too. There is no real dress code, but as with most European cities, the look is more simple elegance, with neutral colours and textures. Berlin Fashion Week was on when we were in the city, but according to those we spoke too - it needs to be re invented. However Berlin is home to many fashion talents with notable luxe leisure wear and accessories designers.  

We had dinner in Katz Orange on the first night - an affordable Moroccan style restaurant in Bergstrabe, but the highlight was the Paris Bar (yes in Berlin)  - which is most famous as the haunt for David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the 1970's, countless fashion designers (Yves Saint Laurent - who has a signed photograph on the wall) and movie stars. Everyone said to order the steak and french fries with the Bernaise sauce, drink the Sancerre or Bordeaux and soak it all in. So we did just that ! We arrived at 6pm ( due to its popularity we could only get the early booking) and were originally told we had to vacate the table at 7.45pm - but we left at after midnight (that's another story).

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 Courtesy of Anne O Neill's Instagram.

Courtesy of Anne O Neill's Instagram.

 

The only down side was the early morning flight back to Kerry on Sunday departing at 7.45am. The hotel sent up a breakfast of fruit, pastries and lattes - but with NO sleep and the effects of a very good night, I left my passport behind me (so thank God for passport cards - if you don't have one - get one now!). It takes about 40 minutes to go from central Berlin to Schonefeld Airport, but allow yourself an hour just in case. Upon arrival walk to Area D and go through security and then onto passport control. It was all very efficient and took about 30 minutes. If you need to use the bathroom, do so before you go through Passport control - as there is no facility after this point.  

 

Ultimately Berlin felt like Manhattan. That heady, intoxicating cosmopolitan ambience, full of adventure and promise, - but also soaked in history and culture - and without all the sirens and noise. 

I will return.

Other observations

* Over all prices are about the same as Ireland
* German wines and beers are fantastic and there is a huge variety
* Public transport is very reliable and affordable, however it's actually easier to walk everywhere when sight seeing - so bring suitable shoes
* Everyone we met had never been to Kerry (or indeed Ireland) and were unaware of the direct flight . However everyone had heard Kerry and Ireland was very green and were all positive in their attitudes. Interestingly no one could name our Taoiseach - but one of our Taxi men (who was from Iran!) knew a lot about Bobby Sands. 
* Unlike France, where you have to have a little French to get by - everyone we met spoke really good English
* It was not as cold as expected - but perhaps we were just lucky. All restaurants and bars are super heated, so wear layers - then you can easily cool off when indoors. 

* Dogs (big and small) were out and about with their well behaved owners in hotels and restaurants. 
I didn't see everyone on their phones in bars and restaurants - they were actually speaking to EACH OTHER ! 
 

(Note: This is a post of my personal experience, I paid my way and I am not sponsored to write this blog)